obesity and arthritis

How is Obesity Related to Arthritis?

May 4, 2022

Obesity is associated with a variety of degenerative and inflammatory health conditions and joint pain is one of the more significant and often limiting impacts of obesity on the obese individual. Obesity is a clear risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disorder that not only causes pain but reduces mobility and can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Is there a connection between obesity and arthritis?

What is the Link between Obesity and Arthritis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the more than 58 million US adults who have arthritis, 39 million are overweight or obese. There are many pathological factors to be considered in obesity-related arthritis. The joint pain and arthritis may be structural or mechanical — a result of increased force on the joints and decreased muscle strengths. Excess weight can also impact a person’s ability to move correctly, which can cause other mechanical difficulties with joints such as the knees.

But it’s not just the weight-bearing joints that are affected; non-weight-bearing joints such as the hands may also be affected by obesity-related arthritis due to inflammation and metabolic factors.

According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, data indicates that obese women are nearly four times more likely to develop arthritis in the knee compared to non-obese women. For obese men, the risk is almost five times greater.

What are the Benefits of Weight Loss in Managing Arthritis? 

Even small amounts of weight loss can significantly reduce the risk of developing arthritis and substantially decrease pain for individuals who already have arthritis. In addition to reducing pain, weight loss can improve joint function for obese individuals. According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), obese patients at every stage of arthritis should be encouraged to lose weight.

Any amount of weight loss can improve the quality of life for overweight or obese adults who are living with arthritis. Weight loss is a non-drug way for adults with arthritis to decrease pain and improve function.

Can Bariatric Surgery Improve Arthritis? 

Bariatric surgery is an evidence-based approach to weight loss for obese people, and it can be effective in reducing pain associated with arthritis. The earlier the intervention, the greater the outcome for patients. If the condition is in the early stages, and the loss of cartilage is not too advanced, patients can experience a modest to moderate improvement in their arthritis pain, according to a study by surgeons at the University of Alberta.

A Johns Hopkins study found that for a woman of normal height, for every 11-pound weight loss, her risk of arthritis in her knees dropped more than 50 percent. For men who were able to move from the obese or overweight category to a normal weight category, their risk of developing knee arthritis decreased by more than 21 percent.

While the most common symptoms of arthritis are stiffness, muscle weakness, reduced range of motion and deformed joints, ignoring these symptoms can wreak havoc on a person’s ability to function. It may also lead to more serious problems, including falls and injuries.

Add improving the symptoms of arthritis to the list of medical conditions that can be significantly improved by significant weight loss with the help of bariatric surgery. Weight loss surgery can help treat type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other chronic and potentially deadly health conditions.

The impacts of obesity on the joints can be compounding. Reduced motion due to joint pain and stiffness only exacerbates the sedentary lifestyle that leads to many other comorbidities. People who are significantly overweight or obese should consider bariatric surgery as a tool to help reclaim their health and get them back to living life again!

obesity and arthritis


Dr. Nick Nicholson is one of the nation’s leading bariatric surgeons. He’s been performing weight loss surgery since 2001 and has helped patients from ALL 50 states and 11 countries. He leads a team of top surgeons, specializing in Sleeve Gastrectomy, Gastric Bypass, LAP-BAND, Revisions, Gastric Balloon, and abdominal cosmetic surgery after weight loss. He practices out of the Nicholson Clinic for Weight Loss Surgery. Read more articles by Dr. Nick Nicholson!